The consequences of Yoo's vaunted "flexibility" have been self-destructive for the US—we have turned a world in which international law was on our side into one in which we see it as our enemy. The Pentagon's National Defense Strategy, issued in March 2005, states,Yoo protests that he was never in a position to be so powerful, but the NYR article establishes that he protests too much. It is long, but worth reading.Our strength as a nation state will continue to be challenged by those who employ a strategy of the weak, using international fora, judicial processes, and terrorism.The proposition that judicial processes —the very essence of the rule of law —are to be dismissed as a strategy of the weak, akin to terrorism, suggests the continuing strength of Yoo's influence. When the rule of law is seen simply as a device used by terrorists, something has gone perilously wrong. Michael Ignatieff has written that "it is the very nature of a democracy that it not only does, but should, fight with one hand tied behind its back. It is also in the nature of democracy that it prevails against its enemies precisely because it does." Yoo persuaded the Bush administration to untie its hand and abandon the constraints of the rule of law. Perhaps that is why we are not prevailing.
And it is scary, in the real sense of that word. What we have is a government more clearly divided against itself, and against the people, than we are currently being told.
And what is most important, is that many of us make our decisions on what is good, what is bad, based on the general tenor of the "national discussion." "So long as it's not me" is the default position for most of us, but that goes by the board if the conversation focusses on what should be, not what is most expedient.
Yoo's argument is one of expediency. We need to return the conversation to one that is morally based.
Because the expediency argument is costing us; dearly.
Update: James Carroll, not surprisingly, says it even better.
Kanye West had it right: Bush is a racist. But that's such an offensive charge, that none dare level it unless we have photos of Bush in a white peaked cap standing smiling that twisted smile before a burning cross. Bush is an amoral monster, but none dare say it unless we find his version of the "Final Solution" in draft form and it is leaked to the New York Times or the Washington Post. Bush is hell-bent on destroying the very democracy he claims to promote and protect, but none dare state that obvious fact until...well, until when?
Where is the shame in Washington today? How does Donald Rumsfeld not blush in the presence of the soldiers he so routinely betrays? How does Dick Cheney maintain that straight face, treating core values as a joke? The recasting of the nation's moral meaning - a blatant embrace of ends-justify-the-means - is happening in plain daylight. No shadows here.
Everytime the Bush administration is caught in one of its repugnant purposes (Thank God, again this year, for Seymour Hersh), the White House declares its intention to stay the course. Torture? Wiretapping? Kidnapping? Deceit? The president's eyes widen: Trust me, he says with a twisted smile. Then he leans closer to display a snarling defiance. The combination reduces his critics to sputters.
Perhaps Bush's savviest achievement has been to make the public think that Rumsfeld and Cheney are the dark geniuses behind the administration's malevolence. If Bush is taken as too shallow to have a fascist ideology; as too weak to stick with hard policies that undermine democracy; as a religious nutcase whose apocalyptic fantasies don't matter; as a man, in sum, the average citizen can regard as slightly less than average - then what he is pulling off will not be called by its proper name until it is too late. 2005? Oh yes, that was the year of the coup.
This, after all, is still just the opinion of James Carroll, or me. The opinions that truly matter are those of the members of the United States Congress.